Rishi Sunak tax scandal: green card and non dom status controversy explained - what is Tory MP’s net worth?

After controversies over Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty being a non dom and having links to Russia - the ex-Chancellor himself came under fire over his Partygate fine

Rishi Sunak has resigned as Chancellor, following Boris Johnson’s Chris Pincher fiasco and reported tensions between 10 Downing Street and the Treasury.

It brings to an end a turbulent period for the now ex-Chancellor, who struggled to contain the worst cost of living crisis for decades and has also been at the centre of several controversies.

He has also faced questions about his own commitment to the UK after it emerged he held a US green card.

But why was Mr Sunak’s green card so controversial - and why has his wife’s fortune come under scrutiny?

Rishi Sunak was viewed as a potential future Prime Minister until scandals over his family’s tax affairs and his green card status hit the headlines (image: AFP/Getty Images)

What is Rishi Sunak’s net worth?

Rishi Sunak is believed to be one of, if not the, wealthiest MP sitting in the House of Commons.

While specifics around his own personal wealth are not in the public domain, he holds a joint-fortune with his wife that’s estimated to be £730 million according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List.

Mr Sunak was a banker with Goldman Sachs, before moving into hedge fund management and setting up his own company, Theleme Partners, in 2010.

His investments were put into a blind trust after he became Chief Secretary to the Treasury in July 2019.

Rishi Sunak was viewed favourably by the Conservative Party after strong performances in 2019 general election debates (image: AFP/Getty Images)

Blind trusts are designed to hide the source of the money they gain from investments, meaning the vehicle can be used by investors to theoretically avoid conflicts of interest.

However, the opposition has repeatedly called for the contents of the blind trust to be made public.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said in October 2021 that the “only people that are blind to it are the public” given they have “no idea where the money is or whether there is a conflict of interest”.

The Lib Dems have now called on Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone to investigate why Mr Sunak did not declare any financial interests between 2015 and 2019, before registering his blind trust in 2019.

Rishi Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, is very wealthy in her own right.

Ms Murthy’s family business Infosys kept its Moscow office open despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine (image: AFP/Getty Images)

She’s the daughter of billionaire Indian IT tycoon NR Narayana Murthy, who founded software firm Infosys in the 1980s.

Ms Murty holds a 0.91% stake in the company, which is estimated to be worth between £400 million and £500 million.

Before becoming an MP in the 2015 general election, Rishi Sunak was also a shareholder in his wife’s investment firm Catamaran Ventures UK Ltd - a company that’s believed to service Ms Murty’s vast personal wealth.

Why is Rishi Sunak’s green card so controversial?

On 10 April, Rishi Sunak was forced to refer himself to the now former government ethics advisor, Christopher Geidt, as a result of the scandal over him holding a green card and his wife’s non dom tax status (more on the latter below).

Mr Sunak had a green card until October 2021 - more than six years after he became an MP and over 18-months after he became Chancellor.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak’s relationship is believed to have become strained over Partygate and Mr Sunak’s ambitions to become PM (image: AFP/Getty Images)

It’s a status that requires you to pay US tax on your worldwide income and pledge to make the US your permanent residence.

His spokesperson confirmed Mr Sunak had filed US tax returns while he had the status “"but specifically as a non-resident, in full compliance with the law".

They also said he had only used the green card for travel purposes and had returned it ahead of his first official visit to the US in line with guidance from the US authorities.

While it is unclear whether this status conferred a tax benefit to the ex-Chancellor, the row has called into question whether a resident of a foreign country should be responsible for the UK’s finances.

Akshata Murty non dom tax row explained

Akshata Murty’s vast personal wealth initially came under scrutiny in March 2022 after it was revealed by Private Eye that Infosys - her father’s firm in which she holds a lucrative stake - had kept its office in Russia open despite Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Many other global firms had pulled out of the country, while Rishi Sunak himself had called for businesses to boycott the pariah state.

Infosys insisted to the BBC that it had not benefited from any Russian business and that it had closed the office as of 1 April.

Akshata Murty, the wife of Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, claims non-domicile status which means she is exempt from paying UK tax on some of her earnings.

Ms Murty’s stake in the firm came under scrutiny again just a week later when the Independent revealed she was classified as a non dom.

This optional tax status allows UK residents who permanently live in another country to not pay UK tax on their foreign income - so long as they pay £30,000 a year.

Being a non dom is likely to have saved Ms Murty millions of pounds in tax on dividends paid out by her India-based Infosys shareholding - especially given Indian tax rates on them could be as low as 10%, compared to a rate of 39.35% in the UK.

It’s a legal practice, but the morality of Ms Murty’s decision was questioned given that - until April at least - she was living full-time in the Chancellor’s grace and favour Downing Street flat.

In a statement released after the story broke, Ms Murty’s spokesperson argued that she had opted for the status because she’s an Indian citizen and “India does not allow its citizens to hold the citizenship of another country simultaneously”.

She was then backed up by her husband in an interview with The Sun, during which he argued she had the status so that she could one day return to India to care for her parents.

However, citizenship has no bearing on where you choose to pay taxes.

With pressure building on Mr Sunak in the wake of revelations over him and his wife having green cards, Ms Murty u-turned on 8 April and announced she would pay UK taxes on all her global income.

She said did not want her tax status to be a “distraction” for her husband, and added that she understood “the British sense of fairness”.

However, Labour has called for Ms Murty to pay back what she has previously saved on UK tax - a figure that could be £20 million.

It has also called into question Rishi Sunak’s decision to raise taxes for people across the country while his family was making savings on them.

In an interview with The Guardian, Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Sunak of “rank hypocrisy” and said the then-Chancellor was “completely out of touch” with voters.

The Daily Mail also quoted anonymous senior Conservative MPs as saying Mr Sunak’s reaction to the leaks lacked maturity and was “petulant and naive”.